Set to become America’s First Lady, Melania did not come from a life of extravagance but always knew there was something far greater out there. Melania was raised in a home built by her father, a car parts salesman, in communist Slovenia. He father Viktor was also a Communist Party member under Yugoslav dictator Marshal Tito, and her mother Amalija worked as an executive in a textile factory.
Melania was always remembered as being studious and enjoyed art and design, renovating old things. A far cry from her life today but she did grow to appreciate what it means to be free and the value of the American dream.
Daily Mail has the story:
She’s set to become America’s First Lady, with a life cosseted in the extravagant luxury afforded only to the super-rich.
And although Melania Trump’s existence today as the wife of a billionaire is far removed from her childhood in a communist state, it is the fulfilment of the dreams that she nurtured living in her own white house as a 16-year-old.
Now The Mail on Sunday has gone back to the young Melania’s home town, spoken to some of her school friends – and tracked down that white house built by her father.
The childhood of young Melania Knavs in the sleepy industrial town of Sevnica – now part of Slovenia – in the 1970s and 80s was unlike that of any previous First Lady.
Her father Viktor was a Communist Party member under Yugoslav dictator Marshal Tito, and as Melania grew up the family lived in a string of modest apartments.
But Viktor also displayed the capitalist ambitions which rubbed off on the daughter who would one day complete her extraordinary journey by taking up residence in Washington as the President’s wife.
A car parts salesman, Viktor drove a Mercedes, and by the time young Melania was 16 he had built the house in the small town of Sevnica – population 4,500 – as a weekend retreat for the family. The property is on the banks of the River Sava.
Meanwhile, Melania’s mother Amalija worked as an executive in a textile factory. She would come back from business trips to Milan and Paris with tales that would inspire her daughter to make her name in international fashion – first as a designer before embarking on the modelling career that would lead to her meeting Donald Trump.
School friends remember Melania as a studious girl who preferred her books to playing – a long way from the woman who would pose for photos in a magazine wearing the skimpiest outfits aboard ‘Trump Force One’ – her husband’s customised Boeing 727 (which he has since upgraded to a 757).
Her childhood neighbour and friend Mirjana Jelancic, 45, who is now the headteacher at the primary school in Slovenia which they both attended, said: ‘She loved everything to do with art and design. She would renovate old things to make them like new, such as old baskets. Her family put them in the living room with flowers in.’
Ms Jelancic said that Melania, now 46, often showed off her diplomatic skills by acting as a mediator during playground disputes. She said: ‘She had a strong personality. She would not be the first with an opinion, but she was intelligent and wise. She grew up in a society when there was not so much freedom. She knew that there was a bigger world out there because her mother had gone to fashion shows as part of her work.
‘She wanted something more from life, but she never told me that she wanted to be a model. She liked knitting and making clothes.
The house was built by Melania’s father, Viktor (left). He is seen arriving in Aberdeen, Scotland, with his wife Amalija in 2011
‘In those times, people were more or less equal, but her family had a sense of aesthetics. Her father always had a Mercedes and it was a ritual that Melania and her sister Ines would clean it every Saturday. ‘She was always reading books, fashion magazines and catalogues. Kids would often call her to play, but she was busy reading.’
Melania, her parents and sister moved to an apartment in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, when she was about 14, and she started at the city’s Secondary School of Design and Photography.
But her family retained their links with Sevnica, building their own white-painted house with a balcony and staying there at weekends.
Her parents, who have lived in New York in recent years, still own the house and return once or twice a year. It even has a US-style mailbox. The couple were last there for a week in June when neighbours noticed they had bodyguards.
Melania was 16 when she was spotted by fashion photographer Stane Jerko in Ljubljana and he invited her to pose for him. He said: ‘I saw this tall girl with long hair and long legs so immediately introduced myself. She was a little self-conscious when I first photographed her, but she learned very quickly and relaxed.’